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Marine Safety: Understanding the Hazards of the Marine Industry (and How to Safely Navigate Them)

November 8, 2023

The marine industry is rife with dangers. Longshoremen, seafarers, port workers, fishermen, shipbuilders and other maritime workers are constantly navigating unpredictable waters, operating within challenging and potentially hazardous environments. Accidents such as vessel collisions, oil spills and machinery failures not only put human lives at risk but can also lead to environmental damage and economic losses.

Understanding the specific risks the maritime industry faces is key to lessening those risks. Prioritizing safety through rigorous training, strict regulations and proper equipment and vessel maintenance can significantly reduce the likelihood of accidents and their far-reaching repercussions.

Moreover, an emphasis on safety instills confidence among workers, investors and the public, contributing to sustainable growth.

Top Five Risks in Maritime Industry

The wide range of jobs within the marine industry means the risks within the industry are vast. However, most of those risks tend to fall within five main risk categories.

Drowning and Water Hazards

Working on or near water exposes marine workers to the risk of drowning. Slips, trips and falls can also lead to serious injuries, especially in wet and slippery conditions.

According to the Maritime Injury Guide, the most common causes of drowning in the maritime industry are:

  • Lack of or defective life vests
  • Lack of or defective life rings
  • Overworked and fatigued employees
  • Poor maritime worker training
  • Inadequate inspections of equipment, vessels and the surrounding area
  • Slips and falls overboard

Whether or not employees can swim, workers can fall into the water and drown at any moment. To make sure workers are protected, be sure workers near water without physical barriers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vests at all times.

Additionally, ensure workers are never on duty alone, and keep functioning life rings available wherever workers are near water.

Hazardous Materials

Marine workers often handle hazardous materials, including chemicals, fuels and other substances. Accidental spills, leaks or exposure to these materials can result in serious health hazards.

To protect workers from the effects of hazardous materials, be sure to maintain a hazard communication plan. Train employees on the risks of each chemical, make sure all chemicals are safely and securely stored and provide spill cleanup kits in those storage areas.

Fires and Explosions

Fires and explosions continue to be a danger to the maritime industry. The presence of flammable materials, engines and electrical systems on ships and offshore platforms increases the risk of fires and explosions. And improperly maintained machinery can lead to major explosions. For example, compressor blasts, crankcase explosions or boiler blasts. These incidents can lead to severe injuries, fatalities and extensive property damage.

Simple safety precautions can protect employees from injuries caused by fires and explosions. Prohibit smoking and open flames in and around charging stations, ensure fire extinguishers are available and fully charged, and ensure adequate ventilation to disperse fumes. And as always, ensure machinery is properly maintained.

Lifting and Manual Handling

Maritime work often involves lifting heavy objects and engaging in manual labor. Repeated and improper lifting and overexertion can lead to back injuries and other musculoskeletal injuries.

To save your workers from debilitating injuries and pain, provide general ergonomics training and task-specific training. Minimize the need for lifting by using good design and engineering techniques, encourage employees to lift properly and ask for assistance when needed.

Additionally, when possible, use powered equipment instead of requiring a manual lift of heavy materials.

Equipment and Machinery

Operating heavy machinery, tools and equipment on ships and offshore installations presents risks of accidents, especially if proper training and maintenance protocols are not followed. This includes forklift-related injuries, cranes, and catwalk collapses.

Regular inspections of equipment and machinery, safety checks, and maintenance are crucial to ensuring employees are not struck by moving crane parts, hit by falling products or fall from dangerous heights.

The consequences of lapses in safety within the marine industry can be dire. Accidents, such as vessel collisions, oil spills and machinery failures are dangerous to all.

By prioritizing safety through rigorous training, stringent regulations and the proper maintenance of equipment and vessels, maritime businesses can significantly reduce the likelihood of accidents and their far-reaching repercussions. Keep your employees safe: download your free Marine Operations Safety Checklist today.

The above information does not constitute advice. Always contact your insurance broker or trusted advisor for insurance-related questions.

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